Guys. I’m dying. At least I feel like I’m dying. Can someone come over and scoop out my throat. I don’t think I need it anymore. It’s all full of gunk and won’t let me talk. Stupid throat. Oh. And while you are at it. Take my right eye too. Apparently I have viral pinkeye. I had no clue there was such a thing, but according to my doctor… there is. And all I can do with this bloodshot zombie-lookin eye is wait it out. Foowie. But seriously, one of the benefits of being sick is that I am forced to sit down and rest. And what’s a better way to spend my day resting than to work on blog stuff, watch some reruns of Fresh Prince, and drink giant cups of coffee.
About 10 freakin’ years ago I started telling you guys about how we were demoing for our new hardwood floors. Ok. Maybe not 10 years. But sometimes, when you are sick, 3 weeks feels like 10 years. Plus, I had every intention to post again about 3 days later, but then life happened. Anywho. I’ve spent about 6 months researching all things hardwood floors so we could make the best decision. And I’ve learned a lot. Like, A LOT. So I figured I would teach a class today on all that I learned. Call it Hardwood Floors 101. And I’m Professor Talitha.
Ok class! Take your seats! Roll call! Bueller. Bueller. Bueller. (I seriously considered going on a super long Ferris Beuller quote-a-thon right there. You are welcome that my cold medicine addled mind was with it enough to stop me.) Along with sharing my newfound knowledge, I’ll let you guys know what we choose for our home.
Types (Laminate vs. Hardwood vs. Engineered)
There are three main types of “hardwood” flooring. Laminate. Solid hardwood. And engineered hardwood.
Laminate: First of all, you have to know that laminate flooring isn’t really a hardwood. It is made of a high density fiberboard core with a wood image glued to the top. With laminate flooring you often get repeating “wood” patterns on the planks. Basically they have about 10-12 different images of wood grains per color that they use on the planks. Hence repeating patterns. Laminate is a great for high traffic areas and resists water better than actual hardwoods. Laminate can also be a cheaper option with the look of wood (depending on where you buy… more on that in a bit).
Solid Hardwood: Hardwood flooring is just that. Hardwood. Each plank is made of one solid piece of wood. While hardwood tends to be the most expensive option, they do stand up to the test of time. Solid hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished hundreds of times over its lifetime. All the super old New England houses? They have solid hardwoods. A con of hardwoods? Due to the need for the solid piece of wood to contract and expand over time you can’t do hardwoods below grade (aka in a basement). Too much moisture.
Engineered Hardwoods: Engineered hardwoods are made up of 3 or more layers of hardwood, plywood, or HDF with a top layer of hardwood glued on top. Because of the multiple layers of wood, engineered floors are harder and more stable than traditional solid hardwoods. This makes them better in areas where there is moisture. Also, because of the actual hardwood top layer, you don’t have repeating patterns like you do with laminate flooring. Engineered also have a larger variety in the width of plank. So if you like a wider plank, you’ll find more options with engineered. Also, you can install engineered on any grade. In reality, I haven’t found many cons for engineered hardwoods. The cost can vary depending on the species of wood.
What we chose: We were originally planning on going with laminate because we were concerned about the cost of engineered and solid hardwoods. But then I found an engineered flooring that I LOVED and it was cheaper than the laminate. Go figure. So engineered it was!
The species of wood is very important to consider if you are looking at solid or engineered hardwoods. Why does the species of wood matter? Because different woods are different hardnesses. Lucky for us there are some smarty pants people who have a scale for the hardness of different species. It’s called the Janka Hardness Scale. Sounds janka-ed up, right? Ha. Sorry… I had to.
For example, based off the Janka scale, balsa hardwoods are SUPER soft (a 100) and would get dinged up and dent simply with walking with high heels. Brazilian ebony is crazy hard (a 3692) and would probably hold up well to a bear trying to scratch it up. The hardest woods on the scale are exotic woods. AKA woods you find in strip clubs. JK. Exotic woods are all the non-domestic woods and they tend to be more expensive. You definitely need to consider your needs and how much abuse your floors will take (by pets, kids, or bears) when picking a species of wood.
What we chose: We decided to stick with a domestic wood but we went with a harder domestic. Our floors are hard maple which is a 1450 on the Janka scale. When our lab really freaks out and tries to run, she can leave a scratch mark, but none that have gone through the finish. I really don’t mind them since our floors have a slight distressed look to them. So the scratches only add to the look. 😉
There are 3 different ways to install hardwoods. You can either nail down, glue, or float your floors.
Nail down: Well, duh. You nail the floors to the subfloor. You can only nail down when you have a wood subfloor. And you will need a special nail gun that you can rent at a hardwood store.
Glue: You… um… glue down the floor. You can do this on concrete/slab and wood subfloors. I have been told by friends who glued theirs down that the adhesive you use is a little difficult to use and you DON’T want it to touch your skin. Like ever. I also should say that engineered hardwoods are the only wood floors you glue down.
Float: The floors are installed over your subfloor but don’t actually get glued or nailed to the subflooring. They “float”. You can float over concrete/slab and wood subfloors.
What we chose: We chose to go with floating floors. They are the easiest to install and are easiest to replace if any piece needs to be. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it is the cheapest way to install.
Obviously finish is 100% up to opinion. So take this more as miscellaneous info that I have gathered.
Color: I am a sucker for dark wood floors. I think they are incredibly gorgeous. That is not to say that light finishes are bad, it is just that I prefer the smooth, richness of dark. That being said, dark wood floors show dust more than light floors. So basically you may need to dry mop/sweep more than once a week. But if you have a black dog (I do) then the dog hair would show on light floors. Dark floors can be cozier or can be more modern. Light floors can be airy and make a room feel spacious. Consider the wall colors when picking a floor color. Dark walls with dark floors tend to make a room feel like a bat cave.
Texture: The newer trend in floors is for them to be more textured to feel like natural wood. One type of texture is hand-scraped which mimics the look of old-school hardwood floors (think 1800s) that were literally, made and scraped by hand. Go figure. Another texture is distressed. Which is basically hand-scraped on steroids. The goal is to make the wood look like it is super old and has been dented and beaten with a hammer, nails, a whip, or even like it has been “whapped by wires”. Man… freaky distressed wood. All into S&M. Basically, textured wood finishes hide dents and dings better than the final option. The final texture option is… well… no texture. It is basically perfectly smooth wood.
Sheen: Kinda like paint colors, there are also sheens of wood floors. Sure, I don’t think sheen is what it is called but that is how I understand them so that is what I’m calling it. As far as I understand, there are basically 3 sheens: matte, satin, and gloss. Gloss is super shiny and shows every footprint/handprint/pawprint. Lower glosses don’t show dirt and dust as much as gloss and hide scratches better.
What we chose: Dark wood floors. Because I lurve them. A hand-scraped texture with some minor distressing and knots because I love a textured wood that hides dents and dings. And matte finish because I don’t want to have to clean footprints and pawprints away every day.
Where to Buy
There are a BUNCH of places you can buy hardwoods. Let me start by saying that this is not a sponsored post. None of these places know me. I searched every store I could find over the course of 6 months and chose what I found to be my best option. Here is what I learned and would rate places based on prices, selection, and quality.
Big Box Home Improvement Stores: You know I love these places. I wouldn’t be there weekly if I didn’t. That being said, I would rate their prices a 3.5 out of 5. Some high. Some low. The first laminate I liked was from one of these places but it was the same price as some of the engineered woods I liked. Selection: 3/5. They had a good range of options across the board but not tons of options for each type of flooring. Quality: 4/5. It seemed to be just as good as anything else. At least from the samples I saw.
Lumber Liquidators: I had such high hopes for LL! Price: 3/5. Their sale prices are great but are on VERY limited stock. And overall, their prices were higher than the big box stores. Selection: 4/5. They had a much larger selection than the big box stores but again, prices were higher. Quality: 5/5. All the woods they offered were definitely high quality. All in all, pricier than I was hoping. Though the sales people definitely knew their stuff and were very helpful in teaching me about some of this stuff.
BuildDirect: A long time ago I was told about BuildDirect and I had completely forgotten about it. But luckily, I happened across their site again just 3 weeks before we bought floors. BuildDirect is a website where you can get all sorts of home improvement products at amazing prices without sacrificing quality. Price: 5/5. For serious guys… you can’t find prices like this anywhere else. We bought our floors while there was a sale and we got floors way nicer than we had planned on getting for almost $3/sqft less! Selection: 5/5. Name the species, color, texture, width, whatever and I’m sure you’ll find it on BD. They have TONS of options! Quality: 5/5. No low quality products to match the crazy low prices here. We had professional hardwood guys out working on our subfloors and they said that our floors were some of the nicest quality they’ve seen. Score! Another major win for BD? You can order all the samples you want for free and they are delivered to your doorstep less than 24 hours later.
What we chose: So obviously my glowing report tells you that we went with BuildDirect. We had budgeted $3500 for almost 1000 sq ft of new floors (not including underlayment, baseboards, tools, etc.). By going with BuildDirect we were able to get the floors, high quality underlayment, 5″ baseboards, and all the tools (nail gun and table saw) and supplies for $3500 delivered. Needless to say, we were 100% thrilled with our choice.
And since I’m such a tease and haven’t shown you any finished pictures of our new floors, here is a little teaser. These gorgeous floors are what we went with. Hand-scraped maple in Latte . They are divine. I can’t wait to show you the finished picture. They are ah-mazing.